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By Brian Hews
Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that in August of this year, Downey Patriot Publisher Jennifer DeKay, with the assistance of the Norwalk Chamber Executive Director Vivian Hansen, once again attempted to illegitimately obtain the lucrative Norwalk legal advertising adjudication for DeKay’s newspaper.
By law, cities must place their legal notices, often running $40,000-$50,000 per year, in the city adjudicated paper.
And Hansen could be guilty of gifting Norwalk taxpayer funds in their attempt to obtain that adjudication.
HMG-CN contacted DeKay’s law firm and its lawyer Michael L. Kirby of Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge and informed them that this was DeKay’s second attempt for her illegitimate adjudication.
Kirby was very surprised to learn that DeKay attempted to obtain the adjudication three years ago, using untrue statements.
First Attempt to Adjudicate
Back in March of 2012, DeKay “purchased” the Chamber’s newspaper, The Norwalk Business Call, for $1,500.
Hansen was Executive Director and Joe Derthick was Chamber President at the time. An HMG-CN investigation also found that then Mayor Cheri Kelly and Councilman Mike Mendez were in on the purchase process.
The Call had basically ceased publication, which made it ineligible for adjudication.
Despite that fact, DeKay, one week after she bought the Call, published a notice in her paper stating her company was applying for the Norwalk adjudication using the Call’s name.
DeKay claimed in the notice that she had published the newspaper for three years, her office was in Norwalk-listed as the Chamber’s address- and that that the paper had a “verifiable” list of paid subscribers.
For a city the size of Norwalk, DeKay probably needed a list of several hundred subscribers, which the Call did not have.
The notice was signed by DeKay.
In reality, DeKay had only published the Call once, a fact that Hansen, Derthick, Kelly, and some of the Chamber Board members also knew.
HMG-CN learned of the false adjudication attempt, filed a Motion to Vacate in Los Angeles Superior Court, and won the case.
DeKay’s paper was subsequently declared ineligible and its adjudication was vacated.
But that did not deter DeKay and Hansen, both were determined to adjudicate the newspaper. The Chamber, according to the purchase agreement, would receive an additional $1,500 from DeKay once the paper was adjudicated.
Using Chamber Address to Obtain Adjudication
When Dekay first bought the Call, Hansen had allowed DeKay to use the Chamber’s address as her own business address. Having an address in the city is one of the requirements to become adjudicated.
After DeKay lost her first attempt to become adjudicated, Hansen, with the knowledge of high-ranking members on the Norwalk Chamber Board, allowed DeKay and her reporter Eric Pierce, to use the office and list the Chamber’s address (12040 Foster) as DeKay’s business address so she could continue her attempt to obtain the legal adjudication.
Yet an examination of the Chamber’s Jan 2013 to March of 2015 financial statements, obtained via a public records request, does not show rental income from DeKay.
In fact, there are no entries related to rental income on any of the statements.
Possible Misuse of Public Funds
More egregious, the office arrangement is being granted even though the Chamber does not own the building and pays rent monthly from its’ only bank account.
And that is where Hansen could be gifting public funds, allowing DeKay – and her for-profit company – usage of the office address inside a non-profit company, while not charging DeKay rent.
The Chamber receives a $3,150 monthly subsidy check, funded by Norwalk taxpayers, from the City of Norwalk, which is co-mingled with other monies in the Chamber’s bank account.
When Hansen issues a check for the Chamber’s rent from the bank account, the funds are co-mingled, making it impossible to separate City money from other money.
Given that the Norwalk Chamber receives a $3,150 monthly check from the City of Norwalk, that the Chamber pays rent for the building using that money, and that the Chamber does not charge DeKay rent, Hansen could be guilty of gifting public funds in an attempt to help DeKay obtain the adjudication.
Yet Another Adjudication Attempt
Now DeKay and her attorney have set a new court date in Jan. 2016 in yet another questionable attempt to obtain adjudication; an attempt that could land DeKay, Hansen, and the Chamber in legal hot water.
When DeKay’s attorneys appear in court, they will have to follow through with the claim that DeKay has an office inside the Norwalk Chamber; she cannot obtain the adjudication without the office address.
But, as proven by the Chamber financials obtained by HMG-CN via a public records request, DeKay is using the office rent-free.
That would indicate Hansen could be gifting public funds: not charging DeKay rent while paying the entire monthly rent using a portion of the City’s money.
A less likely scenario would be for DeKay to deny she has an office in Norwalk, but that would indicate she is not being entirely truthful in her sworn statement to the court filed March 2015.
A third scenario is that DeKays’ attorneys do not attend the adjudication hearing, and the judge throws out the application for adjudication.
One thing is for certain, the presiding judge will be very interested in evidence presented at the hearing.
Emails into DeKay, Hansen, and Pierce went unreturned.
Note: This article was slightly revised after hearing from Michael L. Kirby of Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge.
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